Though convention spotlight panels are a great place for fans to learn more about their favorite artists and writers, seldom do creators announce new projects at such venues. But toward the end of his own spotlight panel on Friday at WonderCon, artist Ethan Van Sciver revealed during the question and answer session that he is writing new material of his original creation, “CyberFrog,” for WildStorm. Also during the audience Q and A portion, writer Gail Simone walked in and asked if he would “ever consider working with a particular writer with red hair?”
“Consider it? I’m committed to it,” the artist promptly replied, and added that his next big DC Comics project would be with the red headed Simone. “I honestly haven’t been this excited since ‘Sinestro Corps.’ I hadn’t felt this way until Gail and I started working on this thing. You guys are gonna love this thing. It’s fantastic.”
When pressed for a detailed announcement, Van Sciver joked that he wanted to actually have some of it done so fans wouldn’t lament like they did with “Flash: Rebirth:” “Why is Ethan so slow?”
Van Sciver was also asked if he looked at Carmine Infantino’s art on the Flash in preparation for his duties on “Flash: Rebirth.” The artist said that he loved Infantino’s work, and that besides Batman, the Flash has one of the best set of villains in the DCU, which Van Sciver credits to Infantino. “His characters were so unique and individual, so wonderfully different from each other,” he said, also mentioning that he would love to go back to “revisit the wonderful, angular, ugly faces of Carmine Infantino’s rogues, and restore them.” Van Sciver even said he would talk with new “Flash” artist Francis Manapul about Infantino’s rogues.
Before the Q and A, Van Sciver talked about the beginning of his career with his own creation “CyberFrog,” his first run at DC on “Impulse,” on through to his run on “New X-Men” at Marvel Comics, and then back to DC with his collaborations with writer Geoff Johns in bringing back to life the Silver Age heroes Hal Jordan and Barry Allen.
Citing “CyberFrog” as just something fun to do and show friends, Van Sciver said that since he didn’t have a writer, all of his first few issues included a classic damsel in distress scene as a way to improve his storytelling.
“I used to go to comic book shops and look at the stuff on the bottom shelf, the companies that couldn’t afford color,” said Van Sciver of the independent comics that were a source of inspiration. “The real indie books that I loved. I love Ed Wood movies. I love ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000.’ I love things that people put their heart and passion into, but with results that don’t really pay back dividends.”
Van Sciver described this as also being done as a kind of research to find a publisher who seemed right for him, which eventually led him to Hall of Heroes out of Elkhart, Indiana. “Instead of coming to big conventions in San Francisco, we would do the Elkhart County Fair,” Van Sciver said. “Where we ate elephant ears, selling our comics in a barn stable in between cows and horses on either side of us.”
Eventually, Van Sciver talked of how he was offered inking duties on “Shadowhawk/Vampirella.” This being his first job as a paid artist, he was obviously ecstatic about it, but just as easily admitted “the inking was terrible.”
Van Sciver was given the opportunity not only publish “CyberFrog” at Harris, but also the possibility of licensing the character. “You need a company to commit to making toys, a network to actually run your cartoon, and a production house to make your cartoon for you.”
The artist made mention that Playmates Toys was already at work on some action figures, as well as a cartoon through Mainframe Entertainment, now known as Rainmaker Animation, and a deal with Fox Kids. But things soon fell apart. “What happened was Japan’s contingent from Playmates came in and fired everybody that I had just met a week prior.”
Van Sciver also touched upon his time with Marvel, specifically “New X-Men,” which he remembered as a less than pleasant time. “Me and my editors were starting to get into a kerfuffle,” the artist said after he was assigned more fill-in issues on Grant Morrison’s “New X-Men” than originally planned. “By issue 118, I’m already annoyed by Marvel. I had only been there for one issue. I have a very short fuse, and decided to pay them back a little bit by secretly hiding the word ‘sex’ on every single page of ‘New X-Men’ in different colorful ways.”
The art team behind Van Sciver was in on the scheme, and what he had done, and it eventually snuck by editorial with nobody the wiser. But then editors asked Van Sciver to take on more of the art load, where he would do eight issues, and Frank Quietly would take four issues. “Bugger this,” Van Sciver breathed into the microphone. “No effing way!”
It elicited a hearty laugh from attendees.
Van Sciver was also unhappy that Marvel was printing all of his covers to “New X-Men” backwards from the way he drew them. “At first it was funny, and then became not funny.” So then Van Sciver says that he tipped off ‘Wizard Magazine’ to his special additions to ‘New X-Men’ #118.
Of course, the majority of Van Sciver’s work has been with DC, at first drawing “Impulse” with writer Tom Dezago. But before even getting on board for that project, he had to draw a pin-up of Wonder Girl Cassandra Sandsmark. Needless to say, he got the job.
“Green Lantern was the project that everybody wanted to do except for me,” said Van Sciver of his original stance on the character. “I always thought it as a space opera with lots of goofy looking aliens that is not ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Star Trek.’ Therefore, it means nothing.” But once he was officially on board “Green Lantern: Rebirth,” he and writer Geoff Johns used “Emerald Twilight” as a great source of inspiration, and then Van Sciver said Johns started telling him about the certain rules to Green Lantern.
“These are fictional characters. They’re puppets, but they’re constructs, they have rules that you need to abide by,” Van Sciver said, recalling his conversation with Johns. “Green Lantern is the man without fear.” Further speaking on the subject of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Van Sciver praised his collaborator. “The wonderful thing about Geoff Johns is that most writers would have discounted all the things in Green Lantern to that point that didn’t make sense. That was just crap. Let’s just throw it out. Let’s just ignore that ever happened. But Geoff said ‘no.'”
Van Sciver further elaborated that books, like “Emerald Twilight,” were not terrible stories, but really rather important stories that justify “Green Lantern: Rebirth” and vice versa.
“Fortunately, even though we were worried about it at the time, you all bought it. You all believed it. Now, I can’t picture the DC Universe without Hal Jordan.”